Florence - So much history
Trip Start Feb 15, 2008
60Trip End May 31, 2008
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The Plaza Della Signoria features a number of larger than life marble sculptures including The Neptune Fountain by Ammammati, The Equestrian Statue of Cosimo by Giambologna, Rape of the Sabine Woman by Ambologna and Perseus a work in bronze by Benvenuto Cellini which features the beheading of Medusa. Bronze is an extremely difficult medium to work in and to this point in time no work in bronze of this detail had ever been created. This sculpture sent a very clear and chilling message to the adversities of Florence: 'If we can make a sculpture like this in bronze, imagine what kind of artillery we have'. The Plaza Della is situated at the foot of the Palazzo Vecchio with its characteristic powerful square tower thrusting its way above the oversized three story structure which began in 1294 as a fortress.
At the heart of Florence is the Florence Cathedral with its signature eight sided domed roof. In 1294 the decision was made to construct a new cathedral which would replace the existing cathedral; built in the 4th and 5th Centuries over of the ruins of the Roman 'Domus'. Construction of the building hit a number of setbacks including death of the master builder, economic crisis, natural calamities and a plague in 1348. 100 years after construction had commenced, the cathedral was almost complete, however the planned domed roof turned out to be much harder to construct than originally projected
Entry to the cathedral is free. The building itself is impressive though I found it to be something of a vast empty space. The floor is tiled and arts and furnishings are minimal. Of interest is the last judgment fresco on the inside of the domed roof which was added in the 1580s and depicts all manner of demons torturing the dammed in the lower sections and the Christ, Mary and the Saints in the upper sections with the struggling or undecided in the midway. For €6 you can climb the cathedral's dome and enjoy the best views in Florence. The climb is challenging and as you ascend the final stages you'll actually be climbing between the dome's two layers. As with the cathedral at Pisa, the bell tower stands separately and the baptistery stands to the west of the cathedral. Both the baptistery and the cathedral's central structure are eight sided representing eternity or infinity.
This baptistery features elaborate mosaics which adorn the interior of its dome and the 'Gates of Paradise' on its eastern side which feature ten bronze gilded panels featuring stories from the Old Testament
Florence contains the greatest concentration of valuable art on earth. There are a number of galleries where famous works such as Botticelli's The Birth of Venus can be viewed. I usually don't get art... I can appreciate when something looks nice but beyond that I just don't get it... however, I was so inspired by the copy of Michelangelo's David that I went to see the original which stands in the Galleria Dell'Accademia. Michelangelo carved this sculpture between 1501 and 1504 from a block of discarded marble he found in the cathedral grounds.
I love these stories of things that were discarded being turned into something great and this sculpture is probably the most valuable and brilliant piece of art in existence. On completion David became something of a statue of liberty for the people of Florence; an identity and symbol of their intellect, freedom and creativity. David is alert and ready with sling in his left hand, concealed behind his back and rock partially hidden in his right. What struck me was the sheer larger than life size of the sculpture, its trueness and the detail of its finish. Even if you're not an art buff, don't miss this.